Obviously stated, this decade is starting off with an unprecedented level of crisis and turmoil.
First COVID-19 brought social distancing, isolation, and an economic shutdown. Few people alive today had ever seen the likes of it. Then, in response to a white cop in Minneapolis killing a black man, riots erupted in cities nationwide. People’s anger and grief and frustration poured forth. National Guard troops moved into some areas, creating a military presence akin to martial law. Certainly, the younger generations haven’t seen the likes of this, either.
We could write reams about all of it, but our focus is business, and specifically HR. So we’re going to concentrate on that. Here are three things HR can do now to help employees through these unprecedented times.
Provide mental health assistance. Your employees have just endured being afraid for their lives (and the lives of their loved ones) because of the COVID-19 virus, and now employees in cities are seeing the sporadic violence in certain protests replayed over and over creating further fear and emotional distress. Grief, anger, enough-is-enough resolve, all of that and more is swirling around in the minds and hearts of your employees. Explore mental health options, whether it be support groups, grief counseling, one-on-one counseling, diversity groups, or other areas of support, reassuring employees that it’s OK to not be OK. Address diversity issues in your own workplace, and don’t be afraid to have the hard conversations.
Be liberal about PTO. Now is the time to offer ample PTO to your employees so they can help clean up their neighborhoods or their own homes, volunteer at local food shelves, deliver meals, support health care workers who are still on the front lines of COVID, spend time with their families, or do anything else that will help them process the events of 2020. Mister Rogers told us to focus on the helpers in times of great crisis. Help your employees be those helpers.
Focus on “normalcy.” With a virus threatening one side and chaos threatening the other, it may seem like life has turned into a Mad Max sequel. But for companies nationwide, the job still needs to get done. Keep those weekly Zoom meetings. Let your employees know what a vital role they have in your success, and how much you appreciate their efforts.
There is no playbook for getting employees through these times. In HR, we just need to do our best and lead with compassion.